Origin of quarter

1250–1300; (noun) Middle English < Anglo-French; Old French quartier < Latin quartārius, equivalent to quart(us) fourth + -ārius -ary; (v.) Middle English quarteren, derivative of the noun
Related formsquar·ter·er, nounhalf-quar·ter, adjectivein·ter·quar·ter, nounout·quar·ters, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for quarter

Contemporary Examples of quarter

Historical Examples of quarter

  • There's one about a quarter of a mile down the stream—Stetson's boat.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • Have they told you that dinner is not till a quarter past eight?


    William J. Locke

  • Harriett couldn't lay her hands on the money or on half of it or a quarter.

  • He has lived so long in the Quarter he looks at life from the Parisian angle.

    Ballads of a Bohemian

    Robert W. Service

  • The rain's over, I declare—at least for a quarter of an hour!

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

British Dictionary definitions for quarter



one of four equal or nearly equal parts of an object, quantity, amount, etc
Also called: fourth the fraction equal to one divided by four (1/4)
US and Canadian a quarter of a dollar; 25-cent piece
a unit of weight equal to a quarter of a hundredweight. 1 US quarter is equal to 25 pounds; 1 Brit quarter is equal to 28 pounds
short for quarter-hour
a fourth part of a year; three months
  1. one fourth of the moon's period of revolution around the earth
  2. either of two phases of the moon, first quarter or last quarter when half of the lighted surface is visible from the earth
informal a unit of weight equal to a quarter of a pound or 4 ounces
British a unit of capacity for grain, etc, usually equal to 8 UK bushels
sport one of the four periods into which certain games are divided
nautical the part of a vessel's side towards the stern, usually aft of the aftermost mastthe port quarter
nautical the general direction along the water in the quadrant between the beam of a vessel and its sternthe wind was from the port quarter
a region or district of a town or citythe Spanish quarter
a region, direction, or point of the compass
(sometimes plural) an unspecified person or group of peopleto get word from the highest quarter
mercy or pity, as shown to a defeated opponent (esp in the phrases ask for or give quarter)
any of the four limbs, including the adjacent parts, of the carcass of a quadruped or birda hind quarter of beef
vet science the side part of the wall of a horse's hoof
the part of a shoe or boot covering the heel and joining the vamp
heraldry one of four more or less equal quadrants into which a shield may be divided
military slang short for quartermaster


(tr) to divide into four equal or nearly equal parts
(tr) to divide into any number of parts
(tr) (esp formerly) to dismember (a human body)to be drawn and quartered
to billet or be billeted in lodgings, esp (of military personnel) in civilian lodgings
(intr) (of gun dogs or hounds) to range over an area of ground in search of game or the scent of quarry
(intr) nautical (of the wind) to blow onto a vessel's quarterthe wind began to quarter
(tr) heraldry
  1. to divide (a shield) into four separate bearings with a cross
  2. to place (one set of arms) in diagonally opposite quarters to another


being or consisting of one of four equal partsa quarter pound of butter
See also quarters

Word Origin for quarter

C13: from Old French quartier, from Latin quartārius a fourth part, from quartus fourth
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for quarter

c.1300, "one-fourth of anything; one of four parts or divisions of a thing;" often in reference to the four parts into which a slaughtered animal is cut, from Old French quartier, cartier (12c.), from Latin quartarius "fourth part," from quartus "fourth" (see quart). One of the earliest dated references in English is to "parts of the body as dismembered during execution" (c.1300).

Used of the phases of the moon from early 15c. The use of quarter of an hour is attested from mid-15c. In Middle English quarter also meant "one of the four divisions of a 12-hour night" (late 14c.), and the quarter of the night meant "nine o'clock p.m." (early 14c.).

From late 14c. as "one of the four quadrants of the heavens;" hence, from the notion of the winds, "a side, a direction" (c.1400). In heraldry from mid-14c. as "one of the four divisions of a shield or coat of arms." The word's connection with "four" loosened in Middle English and by 15c. expressions such as six-quartered for "six-sided" are found. Meaning "region, locality, area, place" is from c.1400. Meaning "portion of a town" (identified by the class or race of people who live there) is first attested 1520s. For military sense, see quarters. As a period of time in a football game, from 1911. Quarter horse, bred strong for racing on quarter-mile tracks, first recorded 1834.

The coin (one fourth of a dollar) is peculiar to U.S., first recorded 1783. But quarter could mean "a farthing" in Middle English (late 14c.), and cf. British quadrant "a farthing" (c.1600), and classical Latin quadrans, the name of a coin worth a quarter of an as (the basic unit of Roman currency).

Quarter days (mid-15c.), designated as days when rents were paid and contracts and leases began or expired, were, in England, Lady day (March 25), Midsummer day (June 24), Michaelmas day (Sept. 29), and Christmas day (Dec. 25); in Scotland, keeping closer to the pagan Celtic calendar, they were Candlemas (Feb. 2), Whitsunday (May 15), Lammas (Aug. 1), and Martinmas (Nov. 11). Quarter in the sense "period of three months; one of the four divisions of a year" is recorded from late 14c.


"to cut in quarters, divide into four parts," mid-14c., from quarter (n.). Specifically as the word for a form of criminal punishment from late 14c. (Old English had slitcwealm "death by rending"). Related: Quartered; quartering. The meaning "to put up soldiers" is recorded from 1590s (see quarters).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with quarter


see at close quarters; draw and quarter.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.